In fact, the forecasts looked quite good: 7.1 percent growth in B2C, 8.5 percent in B2B. Then came Corona – and the paper shortage, rising energy prices, and the Ukraine war. A lot has happened in the 785 days since the last Online Print Symposium. Bernd Zipper revealed at OPS 2022 in the Science Congress Center Munich what impact this has had specifically on online print and what is now important for a successful “re-start”.
He no longer wants to complain about Corona, or about the shortage of materials, high procurement and energy prices, or about the war. He no longer wants to discuss only the difficulties that most companies have undoubtedly faced in recent years, but to look to the future. “We need to be aware of these issues, yes. But above all, we need to ask ourselves how we want our industry to continue,” said Bernd Zipper, founder and managing director of zipcon consulting and co-organizer of the Online Print Symposium, as he opened his presentation on online print trends and developments in the DACH region. “We need to take note of the facts, evaluate them and act.” And yes, in these times, it takes courage. And resilience.
It is precisely this – according to Wikipedia – psychological resilience that was given an important role during the pandemic years. Because it is characterized, among other things, by accepting situations, acting in a solution-oriented manner, abandoning the role of victim, taking responsibility instead, networking and making plans for the future – and is thus almost something like a superpower that will also be important in the years to come.
Rethinking online printing
Because: “It’s about rebooting our industry. It’s about rethinking online print. We have to do more. We can’t make the same mistake many printers have made since the 1950s and stick with a single business model.” Why? Quite simply, because the moment something digital comes into play, a digital platform, online stores or apps, the work never stops and consequently the evolution of the business model must never stop. A tool that was right yesterday can be wrong tomorrow. That’s why online printing has to be constantly questioned and rethought in order to win new customers.
After all, he says, it’s also a fact that society has transformed and modernized at turbo speed over the past two years. “The customer has learned how online works,” says the expert. Still, there hasn’t been a true online print boom. That, in turn, is because society, private individuals as well as entrepreneurs or marketers, have learned in other areas, including e-commerce, mass customization, print on demand (POD) or as far as individual customization is concerned.
Digital is normal
Studies such as the IDH Consumer Report regularly show how important digital has become in people’s lives. For example, the latest report shows that the mindset of people is changing, that online models are “normal,” and that digital primarily serves as an information channel, a decision-making aid, and a “feeder” for digital purchases. And because digital doesn’t just mean the browser in the desktop computer, but rather the smartphone is taking on an increasingly important role as an access point, he says it’s just as important to make your online print store mobile accessible. “The smartphone is the ‘enabler’, i.e. the facilitator, for new generations of customers,” concluded Zipper. “The print customer is online, they understand the processes, but they also expect more service as a result, more digital service.”
On all channels
This could be that they are better met, that there are “real” points of contact, that brands and stores have a multimedia presence and are accessible via various channels, including social media. Of course, big brands like Vista have long been on Instagram and the like and would have an easier time allocating resources for a good social media presence. But Bernd Zipper also sees a simple solution for smaller businesses to be more successful: “Be better at service,” because large online printers often can’t do that in the depth that is needed.
Online print is recovering
And there’s more good news: the market also promises growth in the future, as he demonstrated using the example of the top 5 online printers in the DACH region. “Online print is slowly recovering, and that despite rising delivery prices.” This is because almost all providers – who are regularly examined for the ZOPI, the zipcon Online Print Price Index, among other things – have increased their prices, since August 2021 at the latest – and the market largely accepts this. Print prices have risen by an average of 17.8%, “and at the end of the price spiral we will probably be at 25 to 30%,” predicts Zipper. However, while customers accept the price increases, they are also looking for alternatives. And these, in turn, could also play into the hands of online printers, because services such as print on demand, short-run production or target-group-oriented advertising materials should be something that online printers can do inside out.
Traditional print business vs. online-generated print business
Zipper’s forecast for the next few years also reveals a particular trend, namely away from traditional print and towards online printing. While print sales as a whole will decline over the next few years, it is above all online-generated print sales (OGPR) that will increase, contrary to the overall trend, and increase significantly.
This paradigm shift accelerated during the pandemic, and it will continue to pick up steam. For example, the expert sees OGPR growing by 8 to 12 percent. “In addition, OGPR will exceed traditional print revenue for the first time by 2025.” And with B2B customers in particular demanding a different and more tailored service offering, small printers with smaller but more specialized portals are among those who could drive this development, he says.
Nevertheless, the fact that the OGPR will overtake traditional print does not mean that there will be no more traditional print. However, as Bernd Zipper sees it, those print shops that refuse to use digital sales channels are increasingly losing access to the market. Traditional print shops should therefore urgently come up with something to play a role in the customer’s online canon.
And another thing: marketplaces as well as traders and fulfillers are growing strongly, in no small part due to B2B customers. That’s why the expert sees service providers like Gelato, Printify and Co. growing in the lower double digits over the next few years.
Less, but more valuable, more worthwhile and more sustainable in terms of value
“Online print continues to grow, despite all the adversity,” Bernd Zipper then declared at the end of his presentation. “Yes, less is being printed. But what is being printed is more valuable, more worthwhile, generates more response and sales for those who use it properly and those who offer it properly. The customer understands what’s possible – but they want more, and that’s true in B2C as well as B2B.”
That means “better online support, service, usability, customer experience. It’s also about speed, about presenting products in a visually appealing way. It’s about really catching up with the customer,” Zipper said. “Print on demand is a cool thing, but we also have to explain to the user how it works – the same with mass customization. And even more: B2B customers above all are increasingly expecting full-service procurement portals that are tailored to their needs,” to which, he is sure.